CD Review: Airkraft - Pyongyang Express



Airkraft Pyongyang Express
(FMRCD324–0212 CD review by Chris Parker)


In April 2009, Airkraft (baritone saxophonist Chris Caldwell, soprano player Pete Whyman, tenor saxophonist Frank Van Der Kooij) were invited by the organising committee of the “April Spring Friendship Art Festival” to play in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

This intriguing album provides a record of this experience, comprising a number of short field recordings of singing, news broadcasts, trains, street sounds etc., interspersed with trio pieces (mostly composed by Van Der Kooij) inspired by the trip.

These are mainly stately, tender compositions in which tenor and baritone typically harmonise the rhythmic foundation for Pete Whyman’s blazing, agile, pure-toned soprano solos, but there are also freely improvised passages, a couple of Hugh Hopper tunes (one of them recorded live at the Bookworm, Beijing, at an earlier stage of the band’s short Far East tour) and some perfectly judged tenor contributions from Van Der Kooij.

Overall, this is unusual and absorbing saxophone-trio music, well described on the sleeve as mirroring the sights and sounds of the DPRK: “organised, angular, meticulous and industrial, but … sweet and melancholic”.

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